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It’s just not right

It’s just not right

Mother Jones assesses the draconian Alabama anti-immigration law and finds “It’s just not right.”

Not too far outside Cullman, in an area known as Gold Ridge, I found Keith Smith’s farm, a compound of chicken coops and warehouses at the end of a descending gravel drive, with fields rolling beyond. The chicken houses were open, empty and quiet. A tractor crept across one field, and I could see a row of baseball caps and pale straw hats bobbing above the frame of a seed setter being towed behind it.

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Smith pulled up in a burly white pickup, trailed by a couple of collies, one with only one back leg, still hobbling at a pretty good clip. Smith’s size befits his truck, and as he got out and led me to his office, he moved slowly, with great effort, heeding a pain in his ankles. In addition to sweet potatoes, Smith grows greens and raises pullets for Tyson. He was one of the first farmers in Alabama to complain publicly about the impact of the state’s divisive anti-immigration bill, HB 56—a brave move, since doing so made him a potential target of the law, which criminalizes aiding or abetting undocumented immigrants in any way.


Smith’s problem, which he spelled out in a deep, marbled drawl, is textbook by now: There simply aren’t enough people in the United States legally who are willing or able or geographically situated to do the backbreaking work most farms have to offer, a truth that has become increasingly clear as farmers—first in Georgia, where legislation similar to HB 56 passed last year, and now in Alabama—have scrambled to fill the vacuum left by a labor force that evaporated overnight.

None of the farmers he knew were in favor of HB 56 as it stands, though “all of us would like to see an immigration law we can deal with.” He mentioned guest-worker programs, background checks, tracking numbers—the same strategies that some state Republican legislators have recommended. But the argument over immigration has long been one of reform versus enforcement, and in the case of HB 56, enforcement is emphasized to the extreme. “The way this bill is now,” Smith said, “if you have anything to do with them whatsoever, you’re breaking the law. If you see ’em and they’re hungry, or if they’re out here run over by an automobile layin’ in a ditch, and you help ’em, you’re breakin’ the law.” He swung to smash a fly on his desk and missed. “It’s just not right.”

The Diocese of Alabama and other church groups oppose the laws as they currently stand.


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Dave Paisley

“It is not okay to call a person “an illegal” or “illegals” or “Illegal immigrant”. That is dehumanizing.”

If I call the sky “blue” does that somehow “de-skyify” it?

People who break “the law” to enter this country (or indeed any country with clear laws on immigration) are “illegal immigrants”. It’s not a difficult term to define.


Good points, all. I’d only add that, with the rising cost of health care and other indirect employment costs, there are many non-immigrants who work hard, yet are not provided the neccessities of life, including a living wage and health insurance.

Our societal move away from social justice and compassion/integrity towards all is a troubling thing. Let us all hope and work towards an ethics-based perspective at every level of society.

Eric Bonetti

Ann Fontaine

It is counterintuitive but welcoming immigrants of all sorts improves the economy. See here.

Ann Fontaine

From reading the article it seems that the farmers want a fair policy of immigration – some sort of guest worker system and ability to become citizens. My experience with those who hire workers from other countries both in Oregon and Wyoming is that they pay much more than the minimum wage. I know there are abusers – so we need to the law to protect workers (of all sorts – seems some in this country have forgotten that) — but currently those who do not have the proper papers to be here – pay taxes and social security that they will never see.

Seems to me the church could work for fair policies – it is obvious that these workers are not taking jobs away from anyone – they are doing jobs that support the food on our tables.

Another point – many are here because of the violence of the drug wars in their towns – they are really refugees from the violence caused by US addiction to drugs and gun running by US companies.

Bill Carroll

As we enter into the celebration of the Paschal mystery, we ought to decide which side we are on, Pharoah’s or that of the oppressed Hebrew sojourners. The Bible is pretty clear.

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